Our people arrived at Mt. Sinai on the third day of the third month. The Israelites made an oral pledge to listen and obey the words of Yah, and accordingly Yah told them to set up barriers around the mountain. Then they were told to to consecrate themselves through washing their clothes, and so they did. Yah spoke ‘Ten Words’ to them directly, known to most traditions as “The Ten Commandments”—as a preamble to a long series of related laws that came immediately after. He spoke to them directly as a “test”, intentionally to put his fear into Israel—a test they clearly passed as they were terrified. Moses then went up the mountain, apparently with Aaron (Exodus 19:24), and the rest of the laws we are about to discuss are given to Moses verbally before being delivered to Israel in a written form that becomes known as “The Book of the Law”.
Throughout the next 40 years, Moses will have direct access to Yah and will continue to add to this initial list of commandments, statutes, and judgments. The Book of the Law is set next to the Ark of the Testimony, which is where Yah meets Moses face-to-face and where Moses gets the Holy downloads and records the righteous rulings. It’s the job of the elders, as set forth in Jethro’s advice in Chapter 18, to use these various laws to guide the people, and provide justice when there’s a dispute or infraction. Exodus chapters 20-23 are the first such list given to Moses and then relayed to the people. On the day of Shavuot, these 4 chapters, beginning with the Ten Words that begin Chapter 20, and ending with “You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk” in Exodus 23:19 compose this first installment of instructions.
In the Book of Numbers, which details the 40 years beginning with leaving Mt. Sinai, ends with this verse: “These are the commandments and the rules that YHWH commanded through Moses to the people of Israel in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho.” (Numbers 36:13). The laws added throughout the wilderness wandering are mostly interspersed among the narrative and various struggles they face. Not only does this break up what would simply be a long list of rules (as we see here in Exodus 20-23) but it serves as a reminder to how Yah works in our lives—we learn from doing, and as 40 years of wandering clearly proves—we learn mostly from our mistakes.
In Leviticus, the style of law-giving is the exact opposite of Numbers. If we strip away every law, we are left with only one narrative taking place over the course of one week—interspersed among the laws. The only story (narrative) told in Leviticus is the failure of Aaron and his sons to properly inaugurate the tabernacle—their resulting death—and the need for a new appointed time called “The Day of Atonements” to cover this and future failures of just about everything connected to Israel–especially the failures of Yah’s Levitical Priesthood. The vast majority of the book of Leviticus, when the laws are stripped away, takes place in one literal day. How appropriate that the five complete books of Moses would have the story of this day as its core!
Finally, in Deuteronomy, which means “second law” in Greek, we have a recap of the Exodus-to-Numbers narrative, retold to encourage the Israelites as they are finally poised to cross the Jordan into the Promised Land. The laws introduced, such as a second reiteration of the Ten Words, are mostly the restating the laws in Exodus and Numbers but most certainly add some fresh ones not listed in the former books. There are lengthy blessings and curses added to the entirely of the Torah, as well as a prophesy or two that span all the way to our current day and beyond into our future.
All this to say that when the people finally make the Holy vow “All these things you have said we will do,” that is quite the commitment. Both Moses and Aaron die before crossing into the Promised Land, but twice in Deuteronomy we see these words: “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.”
The rules laid out in the Torah show us Yah’s heart on just about every subject, and doesn’t give any human being, up to and including Messiah Yeshua, the authority to eliminate a single principle from these words.
The unchangeable and perfect heart of the Father and The Son is defined within these Commandments, Judgments, and Statues. Every other word in the entire bible from Joshua to Revelation is rooted firmly, deeply, and unshakably in the Torah that Moses is writing in The Book of the Law, and will shortly read to the people.
The laws in Exodus 20-23, the first installment, cover the basic principles behind:
• Worshipping Yah on His Appointed Times, naming three of the eventually seven.
• ‘Slavery’, including a death penalty for holding people against their will. (So wipe the idea of America’s sin of slavery as being justified biblically out of your mind.–see the next article)
• Clarifying the difference between murder and manslaughter.
• Family relationships.
• Liability and Restitution.
• Rules for lending.
• Justice in general.
I listed seven topics here, and that feels right, but just like numbering the Ten Words, feel free to index the laws however you’d like. Just, whatever you do, don’t cross any out as irrelevant or done away with. Most of these aren’t even Commandments, in the traditional sense of the word Hebrew word ‘Mitzvot’. If, for example, you don’t own slaves, the laws that begin with “if you have a slave…” don’t directly apply to you—but if you ever become a slaveholder, the crash-course is only 10 verses long. However, every Israelite is a slave to Yah (as is mentioned more times in the New Testament than in the entirely of the rest of the Bible) so we wouldn’t expect Him to have a double standard regarding how He treats us. This is why this first list of laws begins with laws regarding slaves (hint, hint).
When living our lives as Christians, as true Israelites, its expected that we would look up these rulings first before even looking at the laws passed by the U.S. Congress, your homeowner’s association, or even your own religion’s “statement of faith”—because Yah’s Torah is the only Constitution of the Kingdom of Heaven. There isn’t a situation in which you could find yourself, back then or today, that isn’t covered by the “spirit of the law” contained in these first five books of Scripture. And if that ruins your idea of who Yah is, who Messiah is, and even foundational principles of what love should like…welcome to the club. His Torah will rub us the wrong way and interfere with our plans, just about every time—especially as we first begin to comply.
Yah’s laws are meant to be a permanent and unmovable lighthouse—we are expected to adjust our course to its light, not attempt to knock it over with our oil tanker because it is in our way.
The Holy Spirit that came on Shavuot in Acts Chapter 2, came to refresh, re-inspire, and reinvigorate Israel to teach, preach, and point the world to Messiah, who came to refresh, re-inspire, and reinvigorate Israel to keep His Father’s commandments. The problem is that human beings hate being told what to do. That’s understandable, we are created in God’s image, we are told back in Genesis, and nobody tells Him what to do. And there lies the heart of the matter. If humanity was given a t-shirt, it would surely say “I can’t drive 55” (that’s a song from the 1980’s, kids, and I already regret mentioning it here.) When we find a minimum we make it a maximum, when we find a loophole, we widen it as much as possible, and make it into a noose. When a self-proclaimed ‘prophet’ comes preaching happy lies, we flock to him. When they preach that the Torah is impossible to follow, we eagerly and whole-heartedly agree. We dismiss the context of “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13) and make that about business goals, or hobbies, or blogging—anything but resting on the Sabbath and living by the holy code.
According to most Christian traditions, keeping Yah’s Torah is the ONE THING we can’t do through Messiah who strengthens us. Thing long and hard about that lie.
Here’s how Moses preached this same message, as he wrapped up his own ministry:
“For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.” (Deut 30:13-14)
“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of YHWH your God that I command you today, by loving YHWH your God, by walking in His Ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and YHWH your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it.” (Deut 30:6-8)
We are only 5 days away from the annual Shavuot re-commitment, where we are asked to say “all of these you have said we will do”. If you haven’t read the Constitution of The Kingdom of Heaven in a while, you might want to brush up. Messiah rules and reigns with a “rod of iron” upon His return–and the learning curve will be steep if His commandants, statutes, and judgments come as a complete surprise to you.